I don’t often listen to audio books, and when I do, it’s always in my car. But since my commute to work is rather short, I have a bit of trouble maintaining continuity in the story. When I do listen to audiobooks, it’s usually because I’ve become frustrated with the radio selections and/or tired of my mp3 collection. And I’m terribly fussy about the books I listen to ~ the plot line must be simple, yet entertaining. The subject matter should be rather light, yet interesting. Most of all, the reader has to be just right…not too breathy, nor too sing-songy, not too fast or ploddingly slow. What I love most of all is a reader with a good British or Scottish accent, and I’ll set aside most of my other criteria for one of those.
Luckily, right now I’ve found all my requirements perfectly met in La’s Orchestra Saves the World, a purely delightful little novel by Alexander McCall Smith. (himself a contra-bassoonist in a group called The Really Terrible Orchestra.) Set in the east English countryside ’round the time of WWII, it features La (short for Lavender) and the makeshift orchestra she pulls together with her neighbors and servicemen from the nearby air base. It’s a tale about a dark time in the world, but one made lighter by the camaraderie of disparate folks coming together to make music.
It’s also a tale about a simpler time, when people rode bicycles and tended victory gardens, when a trip to the post office to mail a letter was an occasion of great import. Each morning as I climb into my little red car to dash off to my office, and again each evening when I pile wearily inside to make my way home, I eagerly switch on the CD player and feel instantly soothed by the images of La’s sleepy village life, brought to me by reader Hillary Neville’s oh-so-perfectly British voice.
Like a good cuppa tea, or a night making music with friends, La’s Orchestra Saves the World is mightily restorative .
Artwork: In the Orchestra, an oil painting by Robert Beck, of Lambertville, New Jersey